|Hungary - Also known as Magyarorszag. The name itself conjures up thoughts of lively gypsy musicians performing in restaurants where sumptuous cuisines are served, enchanting remains of old castles, thermal spas, unending plains and rolling hills, exquisite pottery and ceramic pieces and an aura of a European past continually mingling with the present while influencing the future.
|In The Heart of Central Europe
Hungary is nestled in the heart of central Europe. A landlocked country, Hungary is bordered by Austria, Slovakia, the Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. Hungary is slightly smaller than the state of Indiana with an area of over 35,907 square miles (93,000 square kilometers). The Danube and the Tisza Rivers cut through the country from north to south dividing the country into three sections.
Over ten million Hungarians reside in Hungary with ethnic majorities comprised largely of Hungarian, Roma (gypsies), Germans, Croat and Slovak peoples. About two million people live in the capital city, Budapest. At present, the country is experiencing a negative population growth of -.04%.
Since 1989, Hungary has been a republic with a parliamentary democracy in which national elections are held every four years. Hungary has a market-based economy. In 1999, Hungary became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Membership in the European Union came in 2004.
|From Conquest to a European Nation
The Magyars (Hungarians) migrated into the Carpathian Basin in the late 800’s led by Árpád, their tribal chief. They easily overcame the agrarian societies that inhabited the area. Using the Carpathian region as a base, the Hungarians raided throughout Europe until 955 when the German king Otto I stopped the attacks. Árpád’s great-grandson Géza became a leader of the Magyars and organized them into a united nation. When it was time for his son, Istvan (Stephen), to succeed him Géza requested that Pope Sylvester II grant Istvan the title of king and supply his crown. The pope concurred and Istvan I was crowned as Hungary’s first king in 1000.
In 1241-2, the Mongolian armies invaded Hungary, devastated the country and massacred a third of the population. As a result, Hungarians built fortresses and fortified their towns in anticipation of future invasions.
From the reign of Károly (Charles) Róbert to Matthias Corvinus, Hungary enjoyed two hundred years of peace and prosperity in which it became one of Europe’s leading powers (1301-1490).
A Time of Wars, Occupations and Empires
In 1526, Hungary’s army was defeated by the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Mohács. Turkish occupation of the country lasted until 1699. During this occupation, the country was partitioned into three sections: western Hungary controlled by Austria, central and southern Hungary by the Turks, and the Eastern/Transylvania region enjoyed some autonomy under the Hungarian princes of Transylvania.
The Austrian Habsburgs governed Hungary after the Turks were driven out. The Protestant Reformation had already transformed the eastern region of Hungary, especially Transylvania, encouraging religious freedom and growth. The Habsburgs harsh rule and crack down on religious liberties resulted in a national uprising in 1703 led by Ferenc Rakoczi II. Although the Habsburgs crushed this revolt in 1711, they did seek to improve economic and political conditions in Hungary.
In the early 1800’s, Count Istvan Széchenyi encouraged economic and social reforms while inspiring a renewed interest in Hungarian culture and national pride. By 1849, inspired by the leadership of Lajos Kossuth, declared her complete independence from the Habsburgs. Assisted by the Russians, the Austrians defeated the Hungarian army and put down the revolt for independence.
A Dual Monarchy of Austria the empire and Hungary the kingdom developed after the Compromise of 1867. This dual monarchy brought forth new economic, cultural and intellectual development in Hungary. As a result of World War I, the Dual Monarchy collapsed. The Allied forces redrew the European map and stripped Hungary of more than two-thirds of its territory through the Treaty of Trianon in 1920. Hungary sought to regain this territory by joining Germany, Italy and the Axis powers during World War II.
In 1947, the Communists came to power through rigged elections. The Hungarian people rose up against Communist rule in 1956, but were brutally crushed by Soviet troops. After a period of tight control, economic reforms were adopted in 1968 that featured elements of a free market economy.
Count Istvan Széchenyi
"The Greatest Hungarian"
|Transition to Democracy
In 1989, Hungary played a little-known, but significant role in the eventual collapse of the Iron Curtain by permitting East Germans to cross their western border into Austria from where they traveled north to Germany in order to dismantle the Berlin Wall. The Hungarian Communist party resigned and opened the way for free, multi-party elections.
In the 1990’s, Hungary struggled with high unemployment and economic reforms as the government privatized industries. Numerous multinational corporations poured into the country, creating jobs and providing new stimulus to the economy. With this new openness, Hungary also became a conduit between Eastern and Western Europe for organized crime activities. In 1999, Hungary became an active member of NATO. Full membership into the European Union was on May 1, 2004.
Behind the Iron Curtain
on the Austrian Boarder
|Facts and Trends
In spite of historical setbacks and tragedy, Hungarians possess vitality and a drive to "bounce back." They are extremely resourceful and innovative. However, pessimism is common.
Marriage rates have declined between 1990 and 2001. Marriages dropped by 35%. According to the 2001 census, nearly 10% of families cohabit. The divorce rate in the country is about like america with predictions that 42% of marriages will end in divorce. Hungary has one of the highest suicide rates in Europe.
Although Hungary has made the transition to a free market economy, the changes have not always been positive. With the privatization of state-run industries, large numbers of people were unemployed. In 1990, unemployment was 1.9% of the total active working population. By 2005, the unemployment rate grew to 7.1%.
In addition, personal income levels have not been able to keep pace with inflation. While personal incomes have not significantly increased in the past decade, prices for most consumer goods have risen dramatically. For example:
Ten eggs cost 41 forint in 1990. By 2006, 10 eggs cost 219 forint.
A kilo of sugar cost 35 forint in 1990. By 2006, it cost 229 forint.
A liter of 95 octane gas cost 97 forint in 1995. By 2006, it cost 308 forint per liter (About $5.57 per gallon* as of July 2006.)
Regarding occupational income averages in 1998:
A general practitioner earned $379 USD monthly.
A primary school teacher earned $292 USD monthly.
A chemical engineer earned $598 USD monthly.
Accounting clerks earned $392 USD monthly.
A bank teller earned $348 USD monthly.
A firefighter earned $209 USD monthly.
A shop assistant earned $186 USD monthly.
A plumber earned $290 USD monthly.
Carpenters earned $241 USD monthly.
Presently, the minimum wage is 63,000 HUF a month. That is $300 USD.*
As of July 2006.
* Based on an exchange rate of 210 Forint to 1 US Dollar.
|Composite Sketch of the Magyar
The culture of the Magyar is diverse and complex. They are a gracious and hospitable people, who treasure family and close, deep personal relationships. Homes are typically a haven, reserved for family and close friends.
Education is highly valued. Hungary's literacy rate stands at about 99%. School is mandatory for all children up to the eight grade. Hungarians are avid readers; newsstands and bookstores are everywhere. People can be seen reading books or magazines in the park, at coffee shops, on buses, trains, and the Metro.
Hungarians have a great love and appreciation for the arts. Opera houses and theatres can be found all across the country. At the cinema, people queue up to see the latest movies, especially foreign films from America. Museums are also widely popular across the country, since Hungarians have great admiration and respect for their history and those who played significant roles in defining Hungarian identity.
Moreover, Hungarians love the outdoors! Hungarians like to be in parks or on hiking trails where they can enjoy nature. Fishing, bicycling and hunting are popular outdoor activities. As for sports, European football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Hungary, followed by handball, basketball, water polo and track and field events.
Hungary has a Christian heritage dating back to 1000 A.D. Over 60% of the people claim to be Catholic. The two largest Protestant denominations in Hungary are the Reformed and Lutheran Churches. Baptists; although they have been working in the country since 1846, still have a small number of members that comprise less than one-tenth of a percent of the overall population. In Baptist churchs 64% are above the age of 40.
For the majority of Hungarians, Christianity is viewed as an institution. Because Christianity is so thoroughly embedded into the history and culture of the nation, most people believe that to be Hungarian is to be Christian. The concept of a personal relationship with God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, is unfamiliar to many.
Since 1989, numerous cults (Mormons, TM, Hari Krishna’s, Moonies, New Age and others) have entered the country, each making its own appeal for discovering peace and hope. However, their beliefs and their methodologies for gaining converts have made them rather suspect among the Hungarian people. As a result, evangelical Christian churches and agencies seek to use more acceptable forms of outreach so as to distance themselves from the tarnished image of the cults.
|Significant Hungarian Contributions
A look at the past two centuries reveals many significant contributions that Hungarians have made to our present world. Among some of these noteworthy achievements are:
The helicopter, which was designed and flown by Oszkár Asbóth, an engineer, in 1928.
Ferenc Liszt, (1811-1886) a famous composer who influenced European music.
János Irinyi, 1817-1895, who invented matches.
Albert Szent-Györgyi, 1893-1986, who discovered vitamin C.
János Csonka and Donát Bánki invented the carburetor.
Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály were world famous composers and musicologists.
|Summary: This is Hungary
Hungary is a charming country with a rich, intriguing history and captivating culture! The Hungarians themselves have contributed much to the world of arts and science! Despite all of the rapid changes taking place in central Europe, Hungarians still treasure long-held values and customs. As history unfolds in the heartland of central Europe, it will be fascinating to see how the Magyar adapt to future conventions while retaining those elements that uniquely define their culture.
In a world where everything is fluid and transitional, Hungarians need to have a hope and faith that is constant and secure. They need to know that the God who created the Magyar is in control of the future. His steadfast love, mercy and care never changes. The Lord desires that every Hungarian man, woman and child have an opportunity to know Him in a personal relationship through Jesus Christ, His Son, and that they know the hope, love and peace of His salvation. This is the passionate heart of a Sovereign God for the people in the heart of central Europe.
Hungary: A Brief History, István Lázár, Corvina Press, 1990
Lonely Planet: Hungary, Steve Fallon
The 1999 World Book, World Book, Inc.
1998 Statistical Yearbook of Hungary 1998, Hungarian Central Statistical Office, 1999